Saturday 23 February 2008

Eoin Colfer, Stand Up Author and Charmer of Little Women

I discovered another New Reality for children's authors the other day.

Authors have to write books, yes. They have to market themselves online, yes. They have to do school visits, yes. And now they have to be stand up comics.

It's all the fault of Artemus Fowl creator Eoin Colfer (pronounced 'Oh - when' - as in "OH? And WHEN am I supposed to find the time to get acting classes?") who packs in the crowds everywhere he tours.

I caught Colfer's show at the South Bank's Imagine Children's Literature Festival with four nine year old girls yesterday. Only one of the girls had ever read a Colfer book but by the time we left, each had an autographed copy of the The Wish List (the only Colfer book with a female - human - protagonist).

In the audience was a legion of little boys (all named Ben it transpired during the Q & A) - indeed Colfer's show was srongly targeted at boys and Dads with such themes as: "Reading Books with Explosives and Motorbikes on the Cover is Okay" and "When You Have the House to Yourself Do Not Hesitate to Build Ramps on Which to Practice Flying Your Bike Even If The Brakes Do Not Work". The girls and mums laughed like drains too.

I was inspired to see many heads bowed over books before and after the show.

We foolishly booked at the last minute so we only got seats at the back which were still great seats given that it was the Royal Festival Hall. But this meant we were the last people out and the end of the queue for Colfer's autograph.

Still the Festival organisers followed all the Rules To Make People Enjoy Queuing:

Rule 1. Provide children with an opportunity to deface something. This was the graffiti wall which the girls covered with jokes and, rather precociously, CND slogans.

Rule 2. After the children deface the wall, they can Blu-Tac random items to a blank wall, here, the kids stuck up some paper plates.

Rule 3. Provide technology to keep everyone amused. These were the special seats that told non-stop jokes.

We were still smiling when we reached the top of the queue.

Amazingly, so was Eoin Colfer, who had been exercising his autograph arm for 30 solid minutes.

He charmed the girls by asking them who the leader of their little group was and didn't even ask why one of them was dressed like a sherpa.

Once we'd extracted autographs we headed out to Giraffe where we rewarded ourselves with massive ice creams and a terrific view of the Thames.

This is the sort of total experience that readers expect of us.

I was terrified. But the Rocky Road Ice Cream tasted good anyway.


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